Kage Baker often complained about the sporadic nature of a writer’s life. Either one has half a dozen deadlines gnawing at one’s heels, or nothing happens for months on end. She once went through an entire year where she sold only 1 story (the nadir of her career,she felt). But by the year she died, she literally could not finish stories fast enough to satisfy editors. Everything she wrote was bespoke; the only things she didn’t do on request are in the notes and conversations she left to me.
She also said that the only way to even out this boom-and-bust cycle was to write every single day just as if someone were jigging from foot to foot by the front door, begging for the copy. And that’s what she did. And when a request came in for a story about cyber-badgers in a month, or editing changes that had not been sent to her until she had 72 hours to complete them – why, the machinery was already in motion; all she had to do, as it here, was replace the paper in the press with something fresh and keep going.
Once you are flying like a bat out of hell, she said, you can change direction easily. You’ll get wherever you’re going fast, at least.
That equipoised philosophy did not prevent her from screaming imprecations and raging around the living room when these things happened. But it kept the hysteria down a good ways. And she never said NO to anything. She probably should have, from time to time, but she would instead grin and quote that story about the thief who persuaded a sultan to postpone his execution for a year while he taught the sultan’s horse to sing: A lot can happen in a year. I might die – the sultan might die – the horse might die. And maybe, just maybe, the horse will learn to sing.
I have a ways to go, I think, before I can reach that plateau of confidence where I feel aggrieved to be interrupted. I’ve spent so much of the last year and a half clinging to a log off a lee shore, I’m grateful for any little sign that things are working out. If the vortex swings me a few yards closer to shore – huzzah! Maybe a gull will drop a turtle on me. Or a Big Mac.
Suddenly, all manner of things are gelling. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s II was accepted by Subterranean Press – to my growing amazement and delight, the lovely Bill Schafer likes it as is, without any cuts or further revisions. (Note to all my fellow writers – naturally, what the publisher gets is never the first version: more like the 5th or 6 generation of the original idea. It’s still a rare delight when they don’t want further major changes!)
I can now confidently report that the sequel to Nell Gwynn will be:
Nell Gwynn’s On Land and At Sea; or
Who We Did On Our Summer Holidays
Unbelievable as it seemed, I got the subtitle accepted. Whoo-hoo! It’s silly and childish, but it’s what pleased Kage. And, for further delight, J.K. Potter will once again be doing the cover, so it will be gorgeous. That’s all I know so far, Dear Readers, but I do know that much.
Also, Tachyon Press is looking into printing Kage’s reviews of silent SF&F films (done for tor.com in her last year) as a stand-alone volume. Tachyon are the grand people who did such a lovely job on Hotel Under The Sand (thank you, Jacob!). I’ll be in San Francisco on September 9th and 10th, for Tachyon’s anniversary party and to discuss that. A great idea!
In the meantime – I need to write some flap copy and a brief “How We Did It” forward to NGII. Also work on “Marswife” and “The Fog King”. And wait for whatever new requests come in from the aether. Because, as sure as winter comes, no sooner will I get stuck well into part of the current tasks than a new one will arrive. Or an idea will strike my brain irresistibly. Or the little black cat will disconnect a vital cable behind my slave drive and plunge me into the outer darkness; where there will be weeping and the gnashing of cats …
Or perhaps the parable of the thief, the sultan and the sultan’s horse will come true! I would certainly say, as this point, that the horse is undeniably humming …